SHE CAPTAINS by Joan Druett


Heroines and Hellions of the Sea
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A m‚lange of tales of sea-going, or at least sea-connected, women, where the often fragmentary information can still pique

a yen to sign on for the voyage.

New Zealander Druett (Hen Frigates, 1998) specializes in maritime history, and in this volume, presents a crew of

adventurous women from around the world and through the centuries. Here are stories of Greek queen Artemis, who commanded

the flagship of a small fleet against the Athenian navy; of the "bloodthirsty warrior queen" Teuta of Illyria, who terrorized the

Mediterranean coast with her fleet of privateers, and even of Cleopatra, who commanded not only the hearts of Caesar and

Antony, but the Egyptian fleet at Actium. Although accurate historical records are often thin, don’t forget Alfhild, a terrifying

Danish marauder of c. 900 b.c.; Grace O’Malley, the Irish pirate queen of the 16th century; and Cheng I Sao, a 19th-century

woman who organized a federation of pirates that dominated the China Sea. Anne Bonny and Mary Read were celebrated 18th-

century Caribbean buccaneers, but more typical heroines were the women who backed their men financially, like Sarah Kidd, wife

of the notorious Captain William Kidd, or ran their businesses. The exploits of the convict women transported to Australia are

described, as are tales of women who donned men’s clothes and signed on as crew or as helpmates to their officer husbands.

Among more sweeping contributions, Lady Jane Franklin virtually opened up the Arctic by sponsoring a ten-year mission to locate

her explorer husband, lost in 1845, and Louise Arner Boyd made many voyages to the Arctic, preserving a remarkable

photographic record of the flora, fauna, and geological conditions. A long chapter on Emma Hamilton and her relationship with

Lord Nelson seems gratuitous, as do snapshots of other women whose connection to the sea seems remote.

Still, likely to get the wind up for modern she-farers or armchair sailors. (B&w illustrations)

Pub Date: March 7th, 2000
ISBN: 0-684-85690-5
Page count: 304pp
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15th, 2000


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